Asian Elephants Receive New Safeguards

28 August, 2019

At the 18th meeting of the *CITES Conference of the Parties held in Geneva 17-28 August 2019, the international community united to safeguard Asian elephants, adopting more robust measures to protect the species from trafficking. The need now is to turn these commitments into action.

Elephant Family (EF), Born Free Foundation (BFF), and Fauna & Flora International (FFI) welcome these Decisions, which call on governments to take additional steps to address not only illegal trade of live Asian elephants (commercial trade has been banned since 1975), as had been the case until now, but also the growing trade in Asian elephant parts, including ivory and skin, and products made from them.

Currently, the illegal trade in elephant skin appears to be limited to Asian elephants. However, there is growing concern among elephant range countries that, if this trade expands and Asian elephant populations decline below viable levels, African elephants will also be targeted.

Dr Dave Augeri, Head of Conservation for Elephant Family, said: “Adoption of the draft decisions that strengthen anti-poaching and trafficking laws and prohibit the trade of live elephants, their parts and derivatives is welcome and has been critically needed, particularly regarding the growing trade in elephant skin. We applaud and thank all parties who supported this Decision and look forward to its implementation and enforcement. It is well known that the deadly trade in ivory is responsible for the loss of tens of thousands of tusked elephants, but the skin trade for jewellery and traditional remedies is indiscriminate, targeting any elephant with or without tusks — male or female, adult or calf. The Asian elephant is endangered and this trade must be stopped before it expands and becomes the new ivory.”

Gabriel Fava, Senior Policy Advisor at Born Free Foundation, said: “Let there be no doubt, the Asian elephant is in trouble from all sides. Its populations have been steadily eroded throughout its range, as uncontrolled development, conflict with people and captures of wild elephants for entertainment take their toll. Now, they are being killed and dismembered for further profit, sold as trinkets and medical remedies. We are therefore encouraged by this show of support for a more focused effort to protect this often overlooked elephant species”.

Elephant Family has investigated and exposed the illicit trade in elephant skin since 2014, alongside campaigning for enhanced protection with Born Free Foundation and Fauna & Flora International. BFF’s and FFI’s expertise with CITES was also vital for advancing this Decision and getting it passed. Delegates from India, Indonesia, EU, USA and Israel strongly expressed support for these measures.

“We welcome any added protection for Asian elephants and we thank all CITES parties who supported the elephant in their deliberations”, said Dr Sandeep Kumar Tiwari, Program Manager of the IUCN-Species Survival Commission Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

Justin Gosling, a law enforcement consultant, said: “Elephant Family research found evidence that this skin trade is expanding, particularly through social media and online platforms. Law enforcement agencies need to step up the intensity and pace of their response in order to get ahead of the skin trade before it engulfs them. This development at CITES is positive, but must be followed up by actions, including identifying and prosecuting offenders.”

According to the most recent official estimates by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Asian elephant is Endangered (EN) throughout its range and is Critically Endangered (CR) in some regions. Fauna & Flora International, Born Free Foundation and Elephant Family commend all delegates and range countries for supporting this proposed improvement to current measures. We believe this is a good step, but elephant survival depends on collaboration between the international conservation community and all countries where illicit trade occurs.

Joanna Cary-Elwes, Policy Adviser at Fauna & Flora International, said: “The threat to Asian elephants is growing. It is critical that the emerging trade in skin is stamped out at this early stage or the consequences could be tragic. It is a positive sign that support for action is strong among range state nations and the international community. Now we need this support to translate into concrete action, including through active enforcement on the ground.”

Policy is meaningless without implementation and enforcement. Born Free Foundation, Elephant Family, and Fauna & Flora International will continue to work diligently to ensure that all Asian elephants and their critical habitats are priorities for protection throughout their range.

To read the full measures, see Decisions 18.BB and 18.CC: here

To read reports on the elephant skin trade, see: here


*CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement among 183 nations. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

For more information please contact:

Born Free Foundation: Gemma Hook


Tel: +44 (0) 7920 820018

Born Free was founded by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, who starred in the movie classic, Born Free (1966), together with their eldest son, Will. Born Free’s mission is to ensure that all wild animals, whether living in captivity or in the wild, are treated with compassion and respect and are able to live their lives according to their needs. Born Free opposes the exploitation of wild animals in captivity and campaigns to keep wildlife in the wild. Born Free promotes Compassionate Conservation which strives to enhance the survival of threatened species in the wild and protect natural habitats while respecting the needs of and safeguarding the welfare of individual animals. Born Free seeks to have a positive impact on animals in the wild and protect their ecosystems in perpetuity, for their own intrinsic value and for the critical roles they play within the natural world. For more information about Born Free please visit:

Elephant Family: Megan Stannard or Venetia Higgins

Tel: +44 (0) 207 251 5099

Elephant Family is an international NGO dedicated to protecting the Asian elephant from extinction in the wild. In the last fifty years the Asian elephant population has roughly halved and 90% of their habitat has disappeared. Poaching, a growing skin trade, and demand for wild-caught subadults and calves for tourism remain a constant threat along with the deadly and escalating conflict between people and elephants for living space and food. Elephant Family funds pioneering projects across Asia to reconnect forest fragments, prevent conflict, and fight wildlife crime. Since 2002, Elephant Family has funded over 200 conservation projects and raised more than £15m through public awareness events for this beautiful, iconic and endangered animal. (

Fauna & Flora International: Nathan Williams


Tel: +44 (0) 1223 748 010

FFI protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and that take account of human needs. Operating in more than 40 countries worldwide, FFI saves species from extinction and habitats from destruction, while improving the livelihoods of local people. Founded in 1903, FFI is the world’s longest established international wildlife conservation organisation and a registered charity. (

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